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Reference no. 404-083-1
Prize winner
Published by:
INSEAD (2004)
7 pages
Data source:
Generalised experience


Two reasonable people, a boss and a subordinate, find each other 'impossible to handle'. Through their descriptions of each other's behaviour we realise that they are in a self-perpetuating dynamic. An attempted intervention by the human resource manager not only fails to resolve the situation; it actually makes it worse. The teaching objectives are as follows: (1) to illustrate how cognitive biases can trigger very different takes on the same 'reality'; (2) to discuss the management of 'lower performers'; (3) to increase awareness of the vicious circles in which bosses and 'lower performers' get caught; and (4) to discuss the role of human resources in intervention and prevention.


Human resources manager; Boss behaviour; Subordinate performance; Management and leadership; Motivation and expectations; Self-fulfilling prophecy; Pygmalion effect; Communication; Conflict and mediation; Cognitive biases; Labelling; Selective attention; Attributions; HR (human resources) systems, fair process and feedback; Vicious circles
Division of a multinational company

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